When I wrote about eating organic on a budget last week, I left out an important money saving tip: gardening! Keeping your own organic garden is the most cost effective way to save on your produce. Anyone can garden regardless of where they live. If you live in an apartment you can do a container garden. Set out pots on your balcony and plant what you would want to eat. If you only have a small yard you can use vertical space to garden. There are many tips on how to do this in gardening magazines and online. If you have a lot of space and time to care for it, you can do a big garden planted in rows right into the ground. There are even more ways you can garden...
We plan to do a raised bed garden this year. It takes some start-up cost to build the boxes and buy the soil, but then it is a permanent installment you can use for years to come. Our backyard floods a little and gets too soggy when it rains really badly, so we wanted to raise our garden up this year to prevent loss. You can also plant more in a raised bed because it's basically like square foot gardening. Your vegetables can grow closer together because you can tend to them from all sides of the raised bed. You do not have to space them out like you would in a row garden. You just plant the recommended amount depending on your plant type/size in each square foot of your garden. It also is supposed to help keep weeds down because it's densely packed with vegetable plants.
Last year we planted in rows and had two gardens: the one in our backyard that flooded and one on some family's land that was overtaken by some thorny weeds. It was too big for us to be able to care for it properly. This year we also plan to mulch in our raised beds to prevent weeds altogether...hopefully. That way we can focus on caring for our plants in the best organic ways, harvesting the best vegetables at the perfect time, and preserving the produce.
There are plenty of methods you can use for pest control that is organic. Companion planting is the number one thing to consider. Companion planting is when you plant a "companion" with your vegetables to keep bad pests away and/or encourage good bugs to come in. Different herbs and flowers can do this. When they attract the good bugs, some of them eat the bad bugs and some pollinate your crop like bees. You can also cover certain plants with netting to keep bad pests away. Cabbage in our area tends to get overtaken by cabbage flies but there is a special netting you can fit over your plants to prevent the flies from getting to it and eating it.
You can also use organic soap mixed with water and cayenne pepper to deter and even kill pests on contact. If you can learn which pests are good and what the bad ones look like, sometimes you can hand pick the bad ones off like caterpillars who eat your plants. It's also better in the Deep South to do a Fall garden for leafy vegetables as the heat is usually too much for them. More hardy plants are recommended in this area that are heat tolerant like zucchini, cucumbers, green beans, and corn.
The most important factor when taking care of your garden is to be sure it has enough water. Most seed packs will tell you how much that particular plant needs. The average is about one inch of rain per week. If it doesn't rain, especially in the heat of the summer, you will have to water it. The best way is early in the morning so it can soak it up before the sun really heats up. Late in the evening, watering can promote plant disease when the leaves stay wet overnight. If you can afford a watering system, the root dripping kind is best. It is installed right at the roots of your vegetables and drips water into the ground directly so their roots can soak it up gradually, and without wetting the leaves.
It's also not a good thing to use chemical fertilizers in your garden. You can use organic compost to fertilize naturally. It's free if you make your own! (More on that later.) The organic matter gives nutrition to the soil. It's the way God designed nature. Organisms that die will break down and give life and nutrition to the ones that are living. You will get the most healthy vegetables when you use the method God started.
A few packets of organic seeds for a couple dollars each is a small investment when you compare it to the pounds and pounds of vegetables they will produce. You can save countless dollars in the grocery store by eating from your own garden. It does take time and attention to keep it healthy, but it can be a great investment for your health and the health of your family.
Gardening is also a great source of stress relief. Pulling weeds, watching tender young plants grow into healthy and strong producers of food, and harvesting crisp vegetables have a calming effect. In this day and time we are all so busy with life. We never stop and just soak up what once was normal. By growing a garden you can see the miracles of nature at its best. God makes the plants grow from each of those tiny seeds and provides you with an abundance food from them. The nutrients all come from the soil, the very soil He made man out of. Now THAT is awesome.
This post is linked up to the Homestead Barn Hop
This post is linked up to the Homestead Barn Hop